Summary: Tabernacles was a popular festival rich in symbolism. It was a memorial to the wilderness journey & God’s provision of water from a rock. The water poured on the sacrificial rock altar of the temple represented the life giving water flowing from God.
RIVERS OF LIVING WATER
Tabernacles was a popular festival rich in symbolism. Each day of the feast of booths included a water ceremony in which a procession of priests descended to the south border of the city to the Gihon Spring (which flowed into the Pool of Siloam). There a priest filled a golden pitcher as a choir chanted Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The water was then carried back up the hill to the “Water Gate,” followed by crowds carrying tree branches (lulab in the right hand) in memory of the desert booths and (an ethrog in the left hand) a citrus branches in memory of the harvest. The crowd would shake these and sing Psalms 113–118. When the procession arrived at the temple, the priest would climb the altar steps and pour the water onto the altar while the crowd circled him and continued singing. On the seventh day of the festival, this procession took place seven times.
Judaism saw this water ceremony on multiple levels. On the one hand, it was a plea to God for rain since the autumn is a time of threatened drought in Israel. On the other hand, it was a source of rich symbolism. The feast was established as a memorial to the wilderness journey and God’s provision of water from a rock (Num. 20:8, 10; 2Cor. ). The pouring out of water which cause the sacrificial rock altar of the temple to flow represented the day God’s life giving water would flow out of God’s temple during the messianic age. Zechariah and Ezekiel had visions of rivers flowing from the temple in a miraculous display of God’s blessing (Ezek. 47:1; Zech. 14:8). [In a drought-stricken land, it was a spectacular vision of water, life-giving water flowing from God’s life-giving temple. Burge, Gary M. In NIV Application Commentary, Book of John: 226-227. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2000. ] Jesus’ climatic appearance and astounding words are to be understood against this background.
I. THE INVITATION, 37.
II. THE PROMISE, 38.
III. THE EXPLANATION, 39.
On this final day of celebration, Jesus steps into public view and makes His most stunning pronouncement of the feast. As the seventh water procession climbed the steep hill of south Jerusalem, verse 37 commences. Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.
In 7:37 we read about an planned and prepared appearance of Jesus on the final day of the symbolic Jewish festival. He stood up in their midst as an uninvited preacher and cried out. The word cried means shouted loudly and emphatically so that all might hear and heed.
What Jesus so loudly and publically proclaims to one and all is an invitation and then a promise. "If you’re thirsty, then come to Me. The condition for the invitation is an awareness of thirst. Jesus calls people to recognize, to become aware of, their inner thirst.
There is no lasting earthly satisfaction. Marriage, family, money, fame, enlightenment, travel, athletics, academic achievement- nothing completely satisfies us. Any satisfaction or significance we gain in our quest fades quickly and becomes a vague memory, if remembered at all.